PROVO — BYU has accepted an invitation to play in the New Mexico Bowl and will help usher in the bowl season.
The New Mexico Bowl, which is the first bowl game of the year, will kick off on Dec. 18 at noon at University Stadium in Albuquerque. It will be televised nationally on ESPN.
"We are anxious to participate in the New Mexico Bowl and to be playing in the opening bowl game of the year," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall in a press release. "We look forward to the opportunity to continue to improve our team and build for the future."
The New Mexico Bowl could announce the Cougars' opponent as early as today. There are reports that BYU (6-6) could face UTEP (6-6) from Conference USA. The Cougars and Miners are both former members of the Western Athletic Conference and they haven't played since 1998, when BYU defeated UTEP, 31-14, in El Paso, Texas.
"I think everything about UTEP is attractive to us," New Mexico Bowl Executive Director Jeff Siembieda told reporters in El Paso. "The proximity, the passion that Miner fans have for that program, the tradition they're got there, the familiarity with New Mexico football with UTEP. There's so much that's attractive about them."
The Miners, who beat New Mexico, 38-20, in Albuquerque earlier this season, are coached by former Weber State coach Mike Price.
UTEP has lost five of its last six games, including a 31-28 setback at Tulsa in its regular-season finale on Nov. 20.
The Cougars, meanwhile, won five of their final seven games to be bowl eligible. They have qualified for the postseason the past six years.
"I'm impressed how our football team turned the season around after a slow start," said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. "We are very excited to be playing in the New Mexico Bowl. I am happy for our seniors who fought hard to keep our bowl streak alive."
BYU played in the Las Vegas Bowl the previous five seasons, winning three of those games, including last year's 44-20 victory over Oregon State.
"We are excited to welcome BYU to the New Mexico Bowl," said Siembieda. "I have a strong respect for the Cougars' program, its proud tradition and passionate fans. Combine that with the history that BYU has here in New Mexico and I am very happy that they will be representing the Mountain West Conference in this year's game."
The New Mexico Bowl has a payout of $750,000 per team.
The Cougars are the fourth MWC team to play in the New Mexico Bowl. New Mexico represented the league in 2006 and 2007 while Colorado State and Wyoming played in the game in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
New Mexico Bowl
BYU (6-6) vs. TBA
Dec. 18, noon
TV: ESPN Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM